NEW YORK - As Fox5NY.com's chief spirits correspondent, I am back this summer with another cocktail recipe guide. (I totally just made up that title.) As with last year's feature, this one profiles New York-area businesses I either know well or recently discovered.
Some of these recipes are dirt simple, which is good when you don't want to spend a lot of time making the concoctions for thirsty guests. But honing your mixology skills with something a little more sophisticated also pays off in the end. As the headline suggests, if you can pull off these drinks you will suitably impress your friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, date—whoever comes to the party.
This year's guide takes you to five businesses in four counties in New York. We start and end in Queens County, my home turf.
ASTORIA CRAFT BAR AND KITCHEN
Astoria Craft, which opened in 2015, is two blocks south of Astoria Park in a residential area known as Old Astoria, which is the site of the original village of Astoria. The area is now a mix of well-maintained 19th-century mansions and new multifamily buildings.
Recently, my wife got a bike and I hauled mine out of storage so we could train for a triathlon (yeah, we'll see). We rode around Astoria Park and then stopped for brunch at Astoria Craft, which I had only learned about last year. I ordered the Brunch Pizza, which is the most sinfully delicious dish I've ever used exercise as an excuse to consume.
Prior to opening Astoria Craft with his partners, general manager Todd Dufresne (yes, pronounced like Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption) tended bar for more than two decades on Cape Cod and in New York City.
"I like all of my customers to feel like they're family when coming for drinks or dinner," Dufresne said. "I want everyone to feel at home."
He shared these three cocktail recipes that will satisfy you on a sweaty Sunday afternoon.
1. The Bitter Truth
"A perfect summer cocktail," Dufresne said. English Crown is a fermented gin. Gancia is an Italian wine-based aperitif that Difford's Guide calls "bittersweet and lightly syrupy."
Chill a coupe glass with ice and club soda.
Add all ingredients to a tall shaker and shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Add ice and shake again for 20 seconds. Strain into the coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist (just the rind).
2. The Refresher
This minty and tart wine-based cocktail is great for folks who don't like liquor.
6 mint leaves
1 oz simple syrup (see below)
1 ½ oz pomegranate juice
½ oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz chardonnay
Muddle 5 mint leaves and simple syrup in a mixing glass. Add pomegranate juice, lemon juice, chardonnay, and ice and shake. Strain into a sangria glass. Top with prosecco and garnish with a mint leaf.
Note on simple syrup: You can buy commercially made simple syrup at better grocery stores or online. But making your own is best. Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer three minutes (until sugar dissolves). Remove from heat and cool before using.
3. Whiskey Lemonade
1 ½ oz RJ Boone Special Reserve Whiskey
½ oz triple sec
½ oz fresh lemon juice
Smoked lemon peel or lemon wedge, for garnish
Combine the whiskey, triple sec, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with lemon-lime soda and garnish with either a smoked lemon peel or lemon wedge.
Astoria Craft Bar and Kitchen | 1801 26th Road, Astoria, NY 11102 | 718-278-4300 | astoriacraft.com
SARABETH'S CENTRAL PARK SOUTH
Sarabeth's Central Park South is a busy place. Open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the contemporary American restaurant is steps from the park, up the block from the Plaza and the Apple Store, and minutes from MoMA, Carnegie Hall, and several fancy hotels. That means it is not hard for folks to find.
This summer, Sarabeth's CPW is featuring crisp, cold, and colorful cocktails on its menu. One is tart and the other a touch bitter. Either one goes well with brunch.
4. Sarabeth's Sour
"For the Sarabeth's sour, we are using our orange apricot marmalade, which we also serve in the restaurant with muffins and toast," general manager Mini Caudle said. "We've also partnered with Spring44 vodka—from an American artisanal distillery located in Colorado."
Spring44 Distilling uses mineral water from a spring at 9,000 feet in Buckhorn Canyon of the Rocky Mountains, Caudle said.
Add the ingredients except for the lime to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. garnish with the lime wedge.
5. Smokey Summer
"The mezcal is balanced and elegant with hints of tamarind and pomegranate and delicate notes of smoke and black peppers," Caudle said. "Casamigos uses 100 percent Espadin agaves, which are then smoked underground in earthen pits for four to six days."
George Clooney co-founded Casamigos in 2013. In 2017, he and his partners sold the brand to Diageo in a deal that could eventually be worth $1 billion. Clooney's image remains at the forefront of the brand's marketing.
Combine the ingredients except the orange in a rocks glass with ice and stir. Garnish with the orange wedge.
Sarabeth's Central Park South | 40 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019 | 212-826-5959 | sarabethsrestaurants.com
LITTLE BIRD KITCHEN
I'm told that candied jalapeños are at the forefront of every Little Bird Kitchen product. Co-founders Corey and Sara Meyer evolved grew their business from a side hustle making and selling those candied jalapeños out of their New York City kitchen into a full-time food production enterprise at a facility in Plainview, Long Island.
One of their products is called Fire Syrup, a simple syrup made from jalapeños. Simple syrup is a common cocktail ingredient, so they realized that they could get on board with hot-and-sweet cocktails.
"We really love how versatile our Fire Syrup is and learning how consumers are using it," the Meyers said. "As people, especially millennials, explore flavors outside of their comfort zone, spicy is the leading flavor profile they gravitate towards."
6. Watermelon Fire Cooler
This is the adult version of the Meyers' traditional Watermelon Joy Juice recipe. This recipe actually makes two servings.
"The Fire Syrup, lemon juice, and watermelon all balance each other out with the perfect amount of heat, bitterness, and sweetness," they said.
I love watermelon and I love spicy stuff, so sign me up.
1 to 1 ½ cups watermelon chunks
2 oz lemon juice
3 ½ tsp Fire Syrup
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cup water
2 oz vodka
Puree the watermelon in a blender. Strain out and discard any remaining solids. Measure out 1 cup puree for the cocktails (reserve the rest for a different recipe).
Combine the puree with the rest of the ingredients in a pitcher and mix well. Pour into ice-filled glasses.
Little Bird Kitchen | 25 Fairchild Avenue, Plainview, NY 11803 | 646-620-6395 | littlebirdkitchen.com
FOX N HARE
In last summer's guide, I introduced readers to Fox N Hare, a small brewery under construction in Orange County, New York. Since then, owners Sean Donnelly and David Krantz opened the brewery and restaurant to the public.
It has fast become one of my favorite places to eat and drink upstate because of the yummy beers, delicious burgers and sides (you have to try the buffalo Brussels sprouts), and the rustic, welcoming look of the space.
Check out Fox N Hare if you're ever near Port Jervis, a Delaware River town located right where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania meet. Hike one of the many trails in the area and then refuel at the restaurant.
7. Pineapple Express
"We have come up with a summer cocktail that is super simple, super delicious and uses a New York State wine," Donnelly said. Sweet Walter is a grape wine with natural pineapple flavor made by Bully Hill Vineyards in the Finger Lakes region. If you can't get your hands on this wine, Donnelly said any sweeter riesling with a splash of pineapple juice will work. "We love Brotherhood Winery's Riesling," he said. "Plus it's a local New York wine as well."
Combine the wine and rum a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with the mint leaf.
Fox N Hare Brewing Co. | 46 Front Street, Port Jervis, NY 12771 | 845-672-0100 | foxnhare-brewing.com
One of at least three Irish bars with this name in New York City, this particular O'Hanlon's is right under the elevated Ditmars Boulevard subway station in Astoria, Queens. It has been here for decades (since 1939, according to New York Magazine; the current liquor license was first issued in 1971) and looks like it, too.
O'Hanlon's is known for its friendly bartenders, reliable buy-backs, mixed crowd, and affordable drinks (although, as with every bar in Astoria, its prices have risen in lockstep with Astoria's profile).
I remember the days when older men dominated the clientele (especially when the OTB was still across the street) and very few women ventured inside. The bar still attracts those old-school Greek and Italian regulars but these days a younger and more gender-balanced crowd has taken up shop here.
Nikole has tended bar at O'Hanlon's for years. Although most of the orders are for draft and bottled beer, the usual mixed drinks, and hooch on the rocks, she shared this recipe for a simple but flavorful drink named after the subway station that looms above (and the boulevard just steps to the north).
8. Ditmars Rum Punch
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass.
O'Hanlon's Bar | 22-57 31 Street, Astoria, NY 11105 | 718-728-9619 | Website? What's that? LOL
So there are your eight cocktails to try this summer. If you make any of these, share your creations on social media with the hashtag #8summercocktails and let me know what you think. And be sure to check out last year's guide if you haven't seen it.
Happy Fourth of July, happy summer, and happy (responsible) drinking!